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Let Me Talk a Minute

I thought to take a moment to speak on these unprecedented times. Actually, in one aspect it is unprecedented, and in another, it’s repetitive. A continuous cycle that has been occurring for more than hundreds of years. Even with the integration of schools, public places, and marches from 50+ years ago, the issues of racism, prejudice, discrimination, and general cruelty to people around the country and the world still exist. In addition to the pandemic, we’re feeling another ripple for the need in social justice and progress.

Therefore, I felt compelled to write this, but more importantly, I would be amidst if I didn’t share my truth and the experiences I’ve encountered. Along with sharing my own experiences and giving voice to those who don’t usually have a voice, I have decided to extend our Community Talks series to include experiences of all people, to give voice and speak up against injustice.


A fashionable group of two men and four women standing together.
BIRMINGHAM FASHION WEEK SAK’S SHOWCASE, 2013

It’s hard to figure out where to begin because my experiences vary and to pinpoint where I first began to notice different treatment is difficult. I grew up in Northern Virginia, which has become a very diverse area. However, I didn’t notice as much diversity in school until I got to about the 4th grade. There may have been two or three black students in a class, and it grew the older I got. So I made friends more often with whoever was in our community. My brother and I were in elementary school together for maybe two years together and rode the bus to our grandparents house every day. I’d say my first experience with any kind of malice, without realizing it, was that this girl (I had thought was my friend) was eating some fries left over from lunch and I asked to have one. Instead of just saying no, she spit what she had in her mouth in my face. Now what her intentions were, I have no idea to this day. But I know she got in trouble with the bus driver, who also happened to be her grandmother. In some cases, it shows kids will be kids, but it also shows that any child is, and should be, taught right and wrong.


But growing up in Northern Virginia definitely exposed me to a lot of different cultures and ethnicities. I’ve had a unique position growing up, which maybe others may have also faced. As a light skinned black person, with other ethnicities mixed in that I’m not even 100% sure about, I’ve been either not “black” enough or “white” enough. So when I tell people now that when I went to school at The University of Alabama, I had the most black friends I’ve ever had, they laugh. But it’s the truth. Majority of my closest friends don’t look like me, but we make a menagerie of creed, color, and nationality. Beside those facts, when I went for orientation at UA, I felt the divide in the room and then saw it for myself. But to FEEL the divide is indescribable. It was odd to say the least, especially after having the background with various people that I did. So to see a different viewpoint of how another part of the country still lived, baffled me. Not that it wasn’t or isn’t present in NOVA because it is; it’s just more sophisticated.



I remember trying to attend a few frat parties my freshman year with a couple of my friends. And it must be stated that these were white frat houses, because there is a clear divide in SEC conference school fraternities and sororities, even though some of them have been working on becoming more inclusive. But, my friends and I went to a party where I was cool with two of the brothers since I had class with them. Well one of my friends and myself were let into the party with our other friends, but after that, no one engaged with us. I mean, No One. We were the only two black people there, let alone females. So we decided to exit the front lawn and sit out on the curb until our friends were ready to leave. That’s silent racism and prejudice. Maybe not so much by the individuals I knew whom I didn’t see, but the frat as a whole. If they went to a black frat party, they may have gotten a few looks, but overall they would have been welcomed in with a beer and to have fun with everyone, no problem. Unless of course, someone had an issue, but I never saw that.


But the most important thing for us all to think about and really dig deep to understand is that this isn’t just about racism. Even if racism is eradicated, that doesn’t mean pre-judgement (prejudice), stereotypes, or discrimination will be eliminated as well. These are the deeper aspects that also need to be talked about and moved upon. You can’t deal with one without acknowledging the other.


I will be posting a video sharing more of my experiences and the ideas I have, as well as how our company and brand intend to help make a difference. Not only that, but to share love and a deeper truth with one another. If we look at the spirit of a person, you’ll find more reflection in commonalities than the outward appearance.


Stay safe out there, share your truth and your love, and continue to fight for what’s right.


~Ayana

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